Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Subhrajit Saha

Committee Member 1

Alan Harvey

Committee Member 2

Checo Colón-Gaud

Committee Member 3

Don McLemore

Committee Member 3 Email


Committee Member 4

Ray Chandler

Committee Member 4 Email



Current energy production is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. This dependence is expected to increase with continued population growth and energy demands, augmenting global carbon emissions and environmental pollution. Over the past two decades there has been an increased interest in energy production from renewable feedstocks. Currently, the primary focus for biofuel feedstock production is establishing the groundwork for sustainable growth, while limiting impacts on agricultural lands. I investigated the effects of biochar (field study) and biochar-fertilizer combination (greenhouse study) on the soil and feedstock properties of sunflower (Helianthus annuus) cultivar ‘Gigantus’. Biochar, a soil amendment, has been shown to have a positive effect on nutrient retention, soil moisture and soil organic carbon (SOC). The results of the field study showed neither significant differences in plant quality, yield, energy content or any changes, in soil organic carbon or nitrogen in regards to biochar treatments (0 t ha-1, 25 t ha-1 and 50 t ha-1). The greenhouse study used untreated soil and was treated with an equivalent rate of biochar (0 t ha-1, 25 t ha-1 and 50 t ha-1) and fertilizer applications, which varied with 0 %, 50 % and 100 % of the recommended rates. A significant increase in soil moisture and a decrease in soil pH were noted as a result of the 50 t ha-1 biochar treatment. With significant changes also observed for increased biomass with the highest fertilizer treatment (100%) and an increase in height in biochar at 25 t ha-1.